From a young age, I felt the need to prove myself. I needed to be the fastest, the smartest and the toughest. I needed to prove I was good, and worth being loved.
I suffered from depression as a child. When I was about eleven years old, I thought I was committing suicide when I took one hundred fifty Tylenol pills. I laid down on my bed, believing that I wouldn’t wake up. I don’t remember feeling relieved or disappointed when I did, only surprised.
I lost my virginity to rape at the age of 16 when I was hanging out with a guy I liked. I found out the next day that he was running from the law and was wanted for raping multiple women. I didn’t tell anybody about what I’d experienced. Culture had taught me by then that the victim would be the one that was blamed unless she fought back hard enough.
Several months later, I fell in love with a man. The first time he hurt me, he threw me down a flight of concrete stairs. I chalked it up to him being drunk, but he kept getting drunk and kept hurting me, like the time he slammed my head into a car window. It took me a while to get out of that relationship because I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere else.
When I turned 18, I moved to another city. After several years, I got a job as a coder for a search engine optimization company. I wasn’t making much money and ate pretzels for dinner most days. The Chief Financial Officer became a good friend, and we often hung out outside of work. One day I mentioned that I didn’t have enough money to pay my bills that month. I wasn’t asking for help, but he offered to pay my bills if I’d reciprocate with a sexual favor. I politely declined. The next week, I was the only employee in the company who was “laid off.”
One night, I was out with a friend. I started talking to a guy, and he managed to roofie my drink. My friend and I didn’t know what was going on, only that suddenly, for no reason, I was unable to walk or talk. It took some work, but my friend managed to get me away from the guy and safely back to the place we were staying. I had never been so sick in my life.
A few years later, my friend and I decided to invest in a rental property together. I took out a second mortgage for $25,000 for the down payment. He stole it, and I had no way to recover the money.
Life seemed to deliver one sucker punch after another. I couldn’t seem to escape the influx of abuse. Like everybody else, I was looking for love and acceptance, but I only found counterfeit forms of love. I decided that I couldn’t trust anybody except myself. I had been raised Christian, and I loved God, and I knew that He loved me, but He didn’t seem to be protecting me from countless attacks. So, I didn’t really trust Him either. It was me against the world, and I was determined to win no matter the cost.
I worked hard and eventually built an insurance agency from the ground up. After a few years, I became really sick and wasn’t getting better. I couldn’t figure out what was happening to me. I didn’t have the energy to get out of bed. I had migraines, nausea, and terrible back and neck pain.
I started dating José, who is now my husband. Finally, I thought, I’ve been allowed to have some happiness in this life. Falling in love gave me a boost of energy, although I still struggled to get through each day. But I couldn’t maintain that energy and soon, I wasn’t able to work at all. I lost my business, my house, and my car.
José asked me to move in with him. There was no place I wanted to be more, so I did. Two years later, when I was 29, we married. Around that time, we both started to change. All our emotional baggage seemed to be stuck on a moving truck, out of sight while we were dating. When we arrived home from the honeymoon, that long trailer backed into our driveway and unloaded.
I became bedridden and could barely shower or make a simple lunch. Sometimes I couldn’t do that. I saw doctor after doctor that could only offer more prescriptions to treat my symptoms. Soon I was taking 13 medications that were causing even more torturous side effects. A handful of doctors made some bad decisions that hurt me. On top of that, some treated me like a liar, or a number, or a nuisance. Soon, I decided that doctors were bad.
José and I became so angry. I was severely depressed and developed anxiety, regularly having panic attacks. José didn’t know how to deal with a crying, bedridden wife, and he felt trapped. He made it clear that he resented me for it. Another pattern emerged in my unconscious: men hurt me. Without fully realizing it, I had decided that men were bad and a threat.
It felt like I was living in Hell. Every day, I cried out to God to heal me or take my life. One day, I decided to read the Bible. I read about Moses asking God to reveal Himself (His glory) to Moses. And He did. I was so moved that God would love someone so much that He’d show up like that. I thought, I want that. So that became my new prayer. God, reveal Yourself to me. And He did. He began to point me to the truth about how to regain my health. I changed my diet. I told the doctors to take me off the medications. I studied natural medicine and started taking supplements. Soon I was able to exercise. Eventually, I could do more than move from the bed to the recliner and back. I had been isolated for years, and now I was volunteering and socializing again. Part of me wanted to be around people again, and part of me was terrified, and I developed social anxiety.
José and I were growing closer in one sense but still had terrible fights. Although I was regaining my health—something I thought I’d lost forever, I was still so angry. I had been hurt so much, and I was always scared that the next terrible heartache was lurking around the corner. I had PTSD. I didn’t know it then, but I was diagnosed with it years later. I was oblivious to the condition of my heart, but my actions spoke loudly. I complained, criticized, and spoke negatively all the time. I’d blow up and yell at José for small things, and I blamed him for our marriage problems. After one particularly bad fight, I knew we’d be divorced within the year unless something drastic happened. This is when I knew I had to check my game.
We both agreed to attend a one-year Christ-centered program called Celebrate Recovery. This is a 12-step program for anybody who has hurts, habits, or hang-ups. Through this, I was able to forgive the people who hurt me and release my fear and anger. I stopped trying to categorize people as “good” or “bad” based on my past hurts. And I stopped trying to blame or control people. I learned how to love—not conditionally, but freely, without fear. I learned to have proper boundaries, too.
I was so grateful to God for freeing me from the emotional prison I’d lived in for most of my life, and that made me want to spend even more time with God. The more I did, the more I experienced Him and His love for me in incredible new ways. I can see now that He never stopped chasing after my heart.
José and I celebrated twelve years of marriage last October, and we are madly in love. Our marriage is better than I could have ever imagined it could be. God has continued to transform and heal me. I still struggle with health some days, but I can do some awesome things! In the last six years, I’ve been able to do the physical work to remodel investment properties that we’ve purchased for extra income. I’m talking kicking down walls and putting up sheetrock.
With God’s guidance, I’ve also written a book called Unconditioned Love: Healing Hearts and Minds in a Time of Conflict and Division. I was able to use all the pain and the lessons God’s shown me through the healing process to help others. I would never have chosen to walk through everything I did, but God can and does bring good from anything. I’m able to help people because of what I’ve been through, and the joy that comes from that makes it all worthwhile.
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Staci has Nominated (N) or Introduced (I) the following, plus (S- person shared their story):
First and foremost, know that God loves you more than anything. He was there every time you were hurt, used, or discarded. He was holding you, telling you how much He loves you and that you are His precious child. If you haven’t felt that love, I would encourage you to spend time every day, asking God to reveal Himself to you. He will show up in amazing ways.
If fear and anger are a regular part of your life, know that you can break free from these things. It doesn’t happen overnight but working through the healing process with God and a counselor, or a program like Celebrate Recovery, will give you the power to overcome anything and reclaim your life. It’s worth it.
Finally, great purpose can come from our painful past. God can use our story to help others—not despite what we’ve been through, but because of it.
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Unconditioned Love: Healing Hearts and Minds in a Time of Conflict and Division
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If you want to create a culture of compassion and grace, where every person is valued, this book is for you!
Visit my website: https://www.ownyourvictory.com